Toronto police Chief Bill Blair's contract won't be renewed
Blair has served as police chief since 2005
Toronto's police board decided today not to appoint Bill Blair to a third term as chief of the force, meaning that a search for his successor will soon be underway.
Blair had sought to renew his contract, but the board decided to go in a different direction after his second term expires in April.
Alok Mukherjee, the chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, said the decision about the chief’s future was made following a lengthy meeting of board members on Wednesday.
"It was not an easy decision and there was a great deal of consideration given before the board reached a decision," said Mukherjee, who would not disclose the outcome of the board's vote.
The board also released a formal statement, which praised Blair for his service.
"Chief Blair has had a long and distinguished policing career with the Toronto Police Service. He is widely viewed as a champion of community policing and a leader in law enforcement around the world," the board said.
"He has demonstrated his commitment to issues of human rights, diversity and integrity, among many others, and has served Toronto admirably and tirelessly."
Blair, through a spokesperson, issued a statement thanking the board "for their consideration."
Mukherjee said it is too soon to say how the city's next chief of police will be selected.
Police association 'surprised'
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford thanked Blair "for his service to the people of this great city" and said he looked forward to working with Blair's replacement.
Ford repeated that the decision not to renew Blair's contract was made by the board.
Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, said his organization was "surprised" to learn that Blair’s contract will not be renewed.
"We understand the process, we understand that, you know, things change, and we look forward to working with whoever the next chief might be," he told CBC News in an interview.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said he doubted the decision about Blair had anything to do with the relationship he had with the mayor and his brother Coun. Doug Ford.
"I think it was a decision that was considered, I'm sure it wasn't a hasty one," said Kelly. He added that he liked Chief Blair and worked well with him.
'A big loss'
Two other members of city council said they would have preferred to see Blair continue as chief.
Coun. Gloria Lindsay Luby tweeted that she was “disappointed” by the board’s decision.
"He did a great job as chief and responded quickly to community concerns. A big loss," she tweeted.
After hearing the news about the chief, Coun. John Parker tweeted: "I regret this."
Blair has been Toronto's top cop for almost a decade, guiding the force as it faced the turmoil of the G20 Summit, a number of high-profile shootings and an investigation of its own mayor.
The police chief also called in retired Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci to examine the police use of lethal force, particularly in cases involving mentally ill and emotionally disturbed persons. Blair called for a report after the shooting death of Sammy Yatim, a high-profile incident involving police that was captured on video by several sources and which resulted in an officer being charged.
Defence lawyer Peter Rosenthal, who has opposed police in numerous cases, said Blair had some "turbulent times" as police chief during a tenure that had both positive and negative aspects.
"He seems like a well-meaning person in my view, but I differ from him in many ways as far as assessing what the needs of Toronto really are in policing," Rosenthal said.
At 60 years of age, Blair has served with the Toronto police for more than three decades.
A biography of Blair on the police website says that he started out as a beat officer before he was assigned to specialized units, including major crime and organized crime.
When his term as chief wraps up in late April, he will have led the city's police service for a decade.
With files from The Canadian Press and CBC’s Steven D’Souza